DNR: The search for Michigan’s ghost cat

DNR: The search for Michigan’s ghost cat

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– Showcasing the DNR –

A ghostly, nighttime trail camera image shows a suspected cougar from Delta County.

The search for Michigan’s ghost cat

By KAREN CLEVELAND and CODY NORTON
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

You may have read the stories on Facebook or on other social media platforms.

Tantalizing and captivating claims from across Michigan: cougars seen wandering backyards in the suburbs around Detroit, black panthers skulking through farm fields and attacks all over the state on pets and livestock.

But what’s the truth about mountain lions in Michigan?

How many are there? Where are they? And how worried should we be?

A daytime trail camera image shows a cougar at a baiting site in the Upper Peninsula.Cougars, also called mountain lions or pumas, are native to Michigan and would have been found here prior to European colonization of the region. Early European settlers, however, saw the cat as a threat to them and their livestock, as well as a competitor for venison and other wild game.

Consequently, by the late 1800s, cougars were almost eliminated from the eastern United States, driven by these fears. Wholesale logging of the forests the cougars called home also played a role, as waves of settlement converted much of the state to farmland.

Many states and the federal government created bounties, money paid to people to kill cougars and other predators, with the goal of erasing them from the landscape. These efforts worked so well that cougars were eliminated from Michigan by the early 20th century.

While memories of these big cats persisted in communities across the state, trying to find physical evidence to support reported sightings proved to be a bit like chasing a ghost.

Tracks from a mountain line are shown in the snow in the Upper Peninsula.When evidence was collected at the scene of a reported cougar sighting, like photographs, the culprit was often found to be something other than a mountain lion.

These would-be cougars were actually animals as mundane as a large housecat seen from an angle that made it appear much larger or as unusual and exotic as an escaped pet serval – a large wild cat from Africa that’s definitely not legal to keep as a pet in Michigan.

As reported sightings became more common, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources created a “cougar team” in 2008 to review reports of cougars and to try to verify them.

Brian Roell, a DNR wildlife biologist at Marquette, takes the mission of the cougar team very seriously.

“The team is made up of wildlife biologists for the DNR who have received specialized training in how to identify cougars from photos, as well as from tracks, scat and other physical evidence they may leave behind,” Roell said. “It’s important that we’re able to identify these animals correctly, not just for conservation purposes but also so that residents can be informed about the wildlife living around them and take commonsense precautions.”

Cody Norton, the DNR's large carnivore specialist, places a tracking collar on a cougar in Idaho.Over the 13 years since the formation of the cougar team, its members have met weekly to review reports with supporting evidence submitted to the DNR.

If the evidence appears to have come from a cougar, DNR staffers will follow up with a site visit. This helps the biologists verify that photos haven’t been faked or reported from false locations. The visits also let the biologists measure trees and other objects to help estimate the size of animals in photos submitted with reports.

Sometimes, the team members even use a life-sized, cardboard cougar silhouette to try to recreate the photo to help arrive at a correct identification.

So far, their hard work has verified 65 cougar reports in Michigan.

“We don’t think these are all different cougars,” Roell said. “Many of these reports include photos from trail cameras, and it’s very likely that the same cat is being spotted in different places as it moves through the forest.”

A photo showing a cardboard cougar silhouette placed at a potential cougar sighting location.What does this tell us about how many cougars are in Michigan?

“There’s no evidence of a breeding population here – no signs of kittens in any verified report, and all of the animals where we’ve been able to determine their sex have been male,” said Kristie Sitar, DNR wildlife biologist at Newberry.

Sitar said some DNA studies have been conducted on the cougars found here, using evidence collected from verified reports or a cougar poached in Schoolcraft County several years ago.

This testing has shown the animals being reported in Michigan have traced back to a population found in South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska.

“These are likely young male cougars looking for areas far from home where they can find mates and establish their own territories, and they just keep moving when they don’t find any female cougars,” Sitar said.

A close-up image of a cougar's paw is shown.Should you be worried about seeing a mountain lion near your home?

All but one of the verified cougar sightings the team has reviewed have been from the Upper Peninsula. Chances of seeing one in the Lower Peninsula are extremely low.

Like with most wildlife, there are some simple preventative steps you can take to make your home less attractive to cougars.

Remove sources of food, shelter and safety. For cougars, this means not letting pets roam outside alone, providing shelter for livestock, not feeding wildlife, removing landscaping that provides shrubby cover for animals to hide in near buildings and installing outside lighting with motion detectors.

If you encounter a cougar when you’re outdoors, your best bet is to try to appear too dangerous to tangle with: don’t turn your back on the animal, look as large as you can by standing tall and waving your arms, and talk loudly.

Never run from a cougar, though you can move away slowly. If you are attacked, fight back and never play dead. Remember that the likelihood that you’ll ever see a cougar in Michigan is extremely low, and the likelihood of an attack is even lower.

“These cats are very rare in Michigan,” said Pete Kailing, a DNR wildlife biologist in Paris. “Much of the data we’ve been able to gather so far is thanks to the willingness of Michiganders to share their photos and other evidence with us.”

If you’re interested in learning more about cougars in Michigan, Kailing suggests starting at Michigan.gov/Cougars, where you can find tips on how to tell if the animal you’ve seen is a cougar, how to report a cougar sighting and the current status on where cougars have been confirmed in Michigan.

Check out previous Showcasing the DNR stories in our archive at Michigan.gov/DNRStories. To subscribe to upcoming Showcasing articles, sign up for free email delivery at Michigan.gov/DNR.


/Note to editors: Contact: John Pepin, Showcasing the DNR series editor, at 906-250-7260. Accompanying photos and a text-only version of this story are available below for download and media use. Suggested captions follow. Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources, unless otherwise noted.

Text-only version of this story.

Baiting: A cougar is captured by a trail camera at a deer baiting site in Mackinac County.

Blood: Contractors for the Idaho Department of Fish and Game show a member of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ cougar team how to draw a blood sample from an immobilized cougar. From left, Sam Smith, Boone Smith and Matt Borg, all from the contractor’s team.

Delta: A trail camera photo of a suspected cougar from Delta County submitted to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ cougar team in September 2019.

Paw: A cougar in Idaho has a radio collar attached for research purposes during the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ cougar team’s training. A cougar’s paw leaves a track that measures 3-4 inches across.

Silhouette: The DNR’s cougar team uses a life-size cougar silhouette to compare with the size of an animal captured on a trail camera in Delta County.

Tracks: Cougar tracks are one type of evidence used by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ cougar team to verify submitted reports. These tracks were spotted by DNR staff during wolf track surveys in February 2020 in Schoolcraft County.

Training: Cody Norton, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources’ large carnivore specialist, handles a cougar as part of training the DNR cougar team received on how to tranquilize and handle cougars./

DNR COVID-19 RESPONSE: For details on affected DNR facilities and services, visit this webpage. Follow state actions and guidelines at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus.
State forest fuelwood permits available now at no cost 

State forest fuelwood permits available now at no cost 

 
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– DNR News –

March 1, 2021
Contact: Doug Heym, 517-284-5867

State forest fuelwood permits available now at no cost

A man uses a chainsaw to cut downed, dead wood from a state forest. For the second year in a row, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources will offer free permits to cut fuelwood from dead and downed trees in approved areas of Michigan’s state forests.

This year, fuelwood season begins today, March 1 – earlier than in previous years to help people who might be facing economic hardship during the heating season due to COVID-19.

“We are trying to make the permit process as simple and effective as possible,” said Jeff Stampfly, chief of the DNR’s Forest Resources Division.

Like last year, residents need to use an online permit which can be found at Michigan.gov/Fuelwood. First, use the Fuelwood Map button to locate the township and range where you would like to collect. Then, use the Fuelwood Permit button to bring up a fillable pdf. Complete the form, enter the township and range of the map that you will be using (for example, T22N, R09W), and then print, sign and carry it with you when you go to cut wood.

Please note that permits are for use on designated state forest land in the Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula. The quality and quantity of dead wood varies by location. DNR staffers suggest you visit the site where you plan to cut before applying for a permit. Some sites still may be inaccessible due to snow in March, so check the area where you plan to cut to make sure you can reach it before filling out the permit form.

Fuelwood permits allow for collection of up to five standard cords of wood per household. Wood is for personal use only and cannot be resold or traded. Wood must be dead and down within 200 feet of a road. No off-road use of vehicles is permitted to gather wood.

Permits are good for 90 days after they are issued; all permits expire Dec. 31 regardless of issue date.

Enjoy responsible recreationStay informed, stay safe: Mask up MichiganDNR COVID-19 response
DNR: News Digest – Week of March 1, 2021

DNR: News Digest – Week of March 1, 2021

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News Digest – Week of March 1, 2021

a shadow of a hand holding a fishing pole, set against a dusky orange sky and water

Are you ready? Michigan’s 2021 fishing season starts April 1!

Some of this week’s stories may reflect the impact of COVID-19 and how the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has adapted to meet customers’ needs and protect public health and safety. We will continue to share news and information about the best ways to enjoy our state’s natural and cultural resources.

Follow our COVID-19 response page for FAQs and updates on access to facilities and programs. For public health guidelines and news, visit Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.

Here’s a look at some of this week’s stories from the DNR:

See news releases, Showcasing the DNR stories, photos and other resources at Michigan.gov/DNRPressRoom.

PHOTO FOLDER: Larger, higher-res versions of some of the images used below, and others, are available in this folder.


Photo ambassador snapshot: Color canopy at Proud Lake

Looking upward through the trees, colored red, burgundy, yellow and orange, at Proud Lake State Recreation AreaWant to see more stunning pictures like this, taken by Michigan state parks photo ambassador Aaron Burden at Proud Lake Recreation Area in Oakland County? Visit Instagram.com/MiStateParks to explore photos and learn more about the photo ambassadors! For more on the program, call Stephanie Yancer at 989-274-6182.


2021 fishing season starts April 1

young boy smiling and holding up a fish on a lineWhile anglers prepare their gear and equipment for spring fishing, there’s another key thing to remember: a 2021 fishing license! The new license sales begin today for the season kicking off April 1. Michigan’s annual fishing license is valid from March 1 of a given year through March 31 the following year. Purchase licenses online at Michigan.gov/DNRLicenses.

License options include:

  • Annual all-species resident: $26.
  • Annual all-species nonresident: $76.
  • Annual all-species senior: $11 (65 and older or legally blind, Michigan residents only).
  • Annual all-species youth: $2 (voluntary license for residents or nonresidents under the age of 17).
  • Daily all-species resident or nonresident: $10/day (you set the date/time for license to start).

Michigan law requires people 17 or older to purchase a fishing license before fishing in public waters. Those under 17 may fish without a license but must observe all fishing rules and regulations.

New this year: Anglers 16 or younger can purchase a voluntary youth all-species license. Any adult actively assisting a youth angler must have a fishing license.

New to fishing? Check out our how-to videos for safety and fishing tips at Michigan.gov/HowToFish.

For more information on licenses and regulation changes, check out the Michigan Fishing Guide – available at license retailers or online at Michigan.gov/DNRDigests. The 2021 guide will be available online April 1 and will be valid through March 31, 2022. The online version of the current guide is always up to date and available to download.


Forest Health Highlights: A year in defending Michigan’s forests

a woman wearing a tan coat and floral headband uses a hand lens to inspect a tree in the forestFinding an unusual bug or bump on a backyard tree can be mystifying — is that caterpillar destined to grow into a pollinating butterfly, or is it a sign that an invasive pest is trying to eat up forests and landscaping?

Forest health experts, including the Michigan DNR Forest Health Team, fielded record numbers of such questions in 2020 as people observed nature in their backyards, trails and gardens.

“Gypsy moth topped the list of calls this year in the Lower Peninsula,” said DNR forest health specialist James Wieferich. In the Upper Peninsula, spruce budworm was the biggest concern for locals.

Details about forest health challenges like these pests and predictions for the future are included in the 2020 Michigan Forest Health Highlights report.
Updates share the effects of rising waters on coastal forests and detail efforts to slow the spread of a tiny tree killer, the hemlock woolly adelgid. They also provide data about a continuing outbreak of voracious gypsy moths present in numbers not seen in years.

a man wearing a light blue shirt, orange hard hat, a mask and a backpack, uses a spray wand to trial a new method to stop oak wilt diseaseThe report describes quarantines enacted to prevent the introduction of the mountain pine beetle and balsam woolly adelgid, two insects that, if established, could threaten our state’s conifer trees. It also shares university research on oak wilt disease treatments and efforts to grow beech bark disease-resistant trees.

Since the DNR’s beginnings as the Department of Conservation in 1921, the health of forests has been a priority, starting with wildfire prevention and tree planting and expanding into work to reduce the effects of damaging insects and diseases. Today, community engagement is key in catching issues before they grow from localized infestations to large-scale outbreaks.

“Community members are often the first people to notice when a new pest or disease appears, and early detection is critical in getting infestations under control,” said Sue Tangora, DNR Forest Health Program manager.

Want to learn more? Visit Michigan.gov/ForestHealth or contact James Wieferich at 517-284-5866.


Remove bird feeders now to reduce conflicts with bears

An upright black bear, looking at the camera, pawing at a yellow bird feeder hanging from a treeAs spring approaches, black bears will soon wake from their long winter sleep and start the search for their first nourishing meal of the year. To avoid potential conflicts with bears, it’s a good idea to take down bird feeders and remove other food sources that may attract wildlife.

While black bears primarily are found in the Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula, they occasionally are spotted in southern counties, too. After leaving their dens, bears look for leafy green vegetation to replenish their bodies after months of hibernation. Given the chance, though, these opportunistic feeders will take advantage of available food sources such as calorie-rich bird seed, garbage cans and pet foods.

“Many of us have enjoyed watching birds visit feeders during the winter months, especially while working from home and sheltering in place,” said Hannah Schauer, communications and education coordinator in the DNR Wildlife Division. “But as wildlife become more active in the spring, bird seed can attract more than just birds to your yard.”

No matter what, it’s important to keep wildlife visitors at a distance for the safety of the animals and people. Help your community avoid bear conflicts by removing your bird feeders now, securing trash cans in enclosed areas and taking in pet foods that may be outside.

To learn more about being Bear SMART this spring, visit Michigan.gov/Wildlife or contact the DNR Wildlife Division at 517-284-9453.

Media contact: Rachel Leightner at 517-243-5813.


THINGS TO DO

Michigan’s outdoors is for everyone! That’s why we do our best to provide accessible recreation resources for people of all abilities.

BUY & APPLY

Today’s the last day to register for the Happy Little Trees Virtual 5K. What are you waiting for? Sign up and plan your run, walk or hike!

GET INVOLVED

Show your support for endangered, threatened and nongame wildlife; it’s easy to buy a wildlife habitat license plate for your vehicle.

Enjoy responsible recreationStay informed, stay safe: Mask up MichiganDNR COVID-19 response
DNR Events – March 2021

DNR Events – March 2021

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DNR Events – March 2021

close-up of branch with spring buds covered in frost

Here are a few ways to get out and enjoy Michigan’s natural and cultural resources in March. For a full list of events, see the Department of Natural Resources calendar at Michigan.gov/DNRCalendar.


100 ways to celebrate 100 years of the DNR

Historical photo of boy walking on trail carrying a fishing poleThe Michigan Department of Conservation – now the Department of Natural Resources – was created March 30, 1921. For the past century, the DNR has worked to conserve Michigan’s unparalleled natural and cultural resources and ensure outstanding outdoor recreation opportunities for residents and visitors.

We’re excited to celebrate 100 years of taking care of Michigan’s great outdoors, where fish, wildlife and forests thrive and opportunities to enjoy and connect to nature and our state’s heritage are diverse and plentiful.

Throughout 2021, and especially in March, we’re commemorating the DNR’s centennial.

To mark our 100th anniversary, we’ve come up with 100 ways to celebrate by exploring and enjoying Michigan’s natural and cultural resources. There is something to try in every season and for all skills, abilities and interests.

Take a look, find your favorite DNR centennial-inspired activities and join in on the celebration!


March classes offer chance to gain steelhead fishing, turkey hunting skills

man steelhead fishing in riverThe DNR Outdoor Skills Academy will offer opportunities to learn more about ice fishing, steelhead fishing and turkey hunting with upcoming classes at the Carl T. Johnson Hunting and Fishing Center in Cadillac.

March classes include:

  • Hard Water School (ice fishing class), March 6
    This one-day, introductory class will be held outdoors on the ice and cover  how to set up equipment, how and where to fish, ice safety, and rules and regulations. The class will focus on techniques for pan fish, walleye and pike. Cost for the class is $35, which includes one-on-one instruction from a pro, lunch on the ice, bait and a goodie bag.
  • Turkey Hunting Clinic, March 13
    This class will go over laws, habitat, gear, calling and much more. Students will walk away with the knowledge they need to hunt turkeys on their own. Cost for the class is $30, which includes lunch and door prizes.
  • Steelhead Clinic, March 20-21
    The Outdoor Skills Academy pro-staff will present various strategies and techniques for chasing Michigan’s “chrome torpedoes.” Sunday morning, participants will hit the water to learn how to fish and what to look for on the beautiful Manistee River. Cost for the class is $25, which includes lunch Saturday.
  • Steelhead Seminar, March 27
    The Outdoor Skills Academy pro-staff will present various strategies and techniques for chasing Michigan’s “chrome torpedoes.” Cost for this class is $25, which includes lunch.

For detailed descriptions, registration and information about COVID-19 precautions, visit Michigan.gov/OutdoorSkills.

The Outdoor Skills Academy offers in-depth, expert instruction, gear and hands-on learning for a range of outdoor activities. Classes coming up later this spring include clinics on walleye fishing, whitetail food plot and habitat management, fly fishing for beginners, and wild mushrooms.


Women’s History Month: Stories of women who helped shape Michigan

Historical photo of Eva BellesMarch is Women’s History Month, when we celebrate the vital role of women in American history.

It’s a great time to learn about the stories of women who have played an important part in Michigan’s history, including:

  • Eva Belles (pictured here), a reformer and women’s rights activist involved in a Flint suffrage case in which the Michigan Supreme Court decided women could qualify to vote in school elections.
  • Daisy Elliott, state legislator and Michigan Constitutional Convention delegate who worked to improve the lives of Michigan’s African Americans and women and bring their interests to Lansing. Her greatest contribution to Michigan is the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act of 1976.
  • Laura Haviland, who fought against slavery and helped enslaved African Americans seeking freedom along the Underground Railroad.

Find other fascinating stories from Michigan’s past at Michiganology.org/Stories.

Learn more about the women who have shaped Michigan history on the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame timeline.


Conservation Officer Appreciation Day

March 15 is Conservation Officer Appreciation Day. Last year, DNR conservation officers contacted more than 492,000 people, ensuring recreation safety and preservation of natural resources for future generations. Learn more about DNR conservation officers at Michigan.gov/ConservationOfficers.

Get ORV safety-certified before you hit the trail

Before planning some ORV-riding adventure this spring, make sure everyone in your group is safety-certified. Riders age 16 or younger must have an ORV safety certificate to ride on public or private land – including trails. Earn your ORV safety certificate online at Michigan.gov/RecreationalSafety.

State forest fuelwood permits available now at no cost 

Showcasing the DNR

 
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– Showcasing the DNR –

A landscape scene drawn in pen in a park logbook by a visitor in the 1970s.

Between the pages, a history lies

Porcupine Mountains logbooks offer glimpse into personal park experiences

Editor’s note: In celebration of the department’s centennial anniversary, the Showcasing the DNR feature series will highlight one story each month during 2021 that recalls various accomplishments of the department, or historical highlights, over the past century.

By KATIE URBAN
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is made up of 60,000 acres of massive trees, rolling mountains, fabled shores and everlasting memories.

Also known as “the Porkies,” this western Upper Peninsula destination prides itself on the ideals of true natural, wilderness beauty and keeping Michigan’s largest state park as wild as possible.

Logbooks from the cabins and yurts at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park are shown.Though a good deal of this place is a primitive area, evidence of human activity is not absent.

In fact, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources has tucked 23 rustic backcountry cabins or yurts into this stunning landscape, which are nestled into some truly beautiful spaces.

Upon arrival to an empty cabin, each visitor likely feels the initial excitement at the start of a new adventure.

The faint smell of woodsmoke soon wafts from the small metal stove that sits in the corner, a neat stack of dry firewood towers to its side. The scuffed wooden floor supports a few sets of bunk beds and a small, well-worn wooden table.

Somewhere in each one of these cabins there is a beaten-up old book, not the one filled with the brochures and instructions of how to navigate the park, but the one full of the first-hand history of this tiny place surrounded by so much wild.

As is the case at state parks across Michigan, the cabin logbook is somewhat of a secret treasure here at the Porcupine Mountains. Each visitor who reserves a stay in one of the cabins has the option to write his or her story.

With 23 cabins and yurts across the span of 76 years, the park has gathered quite the collection of books and stories.

Within the pages of these books is the history of the park, written by the people who took the time to enjoy it.

A drawing from a logbook at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is shown.What do complete strangers write in these books? The answer is not so simple – with so many different ages, personalities, backgrounds and viewpoints contributing, the content is broad.

A very common theme is the individual adventures – what types of critters scurried by on their hike in, what was packed for a meal or a little insight about themselves. Most stories are of good times, while others had a bit more traumatizing stay.

One entry from 1992, at the Lily Pond cabin, reads:

“We had three visitors this morning. Three very cute and comical otters were playing by the dam. I took twenty pictures and they wanted more! So, hopefully, they will come back to meet the next people. The sun is rising over the lake and it’s a beautiful morning.”

A visitor to the Greenstone Cabin in 1984 wrote:

“My six-month-old fell out of the backpack headfirst when my husband bent over to grab my three-year-old who was falling down the bank. Am I having a good time you ask?”

Many authors in the Porkies logbooks like to write to the strangers that will be coming in behind them. A lot of times, they give advice from experience learned or knowledge they deem worth sharing. Some authors have burning confessions, honest apologies or a simple heads-up to the next nights residents.

Some examples of the variety include:

A wintry scene is shown from the Mirror Lake Cabin.“The wildflowers are so beautiful; be prudent in picking them. Let enough flowers stay to carry seeds and continue to keep these woods full of nature’s variety.” – Whitetail Cabin, 1991

“Sorry about the burnt popcorn smell. There’s an explanation for that. We burnt the popcorn. Expert backpackers ya’ know.” – Greenstone Cabin, 1984

“We tried some freeze-dried powdered eggs-they’re awful!! Chili-mac is great though.” – Lake of the Clouds Cabin, 2008

“I’m avoiding to tell my brother that I lost one of his spoons “tackle.” I’m notorious for decorating trees with spinners and what not.” – Greenstone Cabin, 1984

“My sister puked outside, so don’t step in it. Had some marshmallows. Very hot in here especially on the top bunks, so sleep on the bottom. Had a relaxing weekend. Went cross-country skiing a lot, saw a deer, more deer poop than deer, don’t step in that either.” – Whitetail Cabin, 1992

Humans thrive on telling tales. Many myths are started by word-of-mouth stories passed down through generations that are then put down on paper and become legends.

The visitors to the Porkies cabins have crafted several legends over the years.

A small drawing of the "Grizzly Mouse" is shown.One example is the tale of a large mouse in the Buckshot Cabin. He was fitted with the name “Grizzly Mouse, the Good Ole’ Buckshot Bear,” and he terrorized the cabin in the late 1970s.

Many visitors wrote of sightings or of hearing the mouse rustling in the night. Others shared advice on how to outwit him to thwart his plans of stealing food or precious supplies.

“Have taken good advice of past dwellers to Buckshot. Put food under pails and pots. ‘grizzly’ won’t get your food. Then he will get discouraged and leave.” – Buckshot Cabin 1977

“Doug told Steve the legend, of the little log house. And the ferocious field varmint, named Grizzly the mouse. We slept through the night, with both terror and fright. Because Grizzly the mouse had threatened to bite.” – Buckshot Cabin 1978

Cabin users have expressed themselves in ways other than storytelling, including poetry, music and art. Here’s a sample from the Greenstone Cabin in 1986:

“We stayed in this wilderness camp,

Without rain we didn’t get damp.

Saw no bears, it doesn’t matter,

Ate lots of food, we all got fatter.

We love it in the porcupine mountains,

too bad there aren’t more fresh-water fountains.”

A Mirror Lake two-bunk cabin visitor offered this from 1992:

“I feel fine, talkin’ bout piece of mind, I’m gonna take my time, livin’ the good life …”

Logbooks from the cabins and yurts at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park are shown stacked.Another theme running through the guest logbooks is people yelling at previous cabin renters about being slobs, critiquing each other on their backpacking methods or long entries that highlight very many rules that are broken (dogs in cabins, cutting down trees, too many people, etc.)

These complaints, perhaps a precursor to today’s social media posts, date back in the logbooks as far as the 1960s.

People come from all over the world come to stay in the park’s little cabins in the woods. They come for many reasons: solitude, adventure or building bonds with family or friends.

For most cabin users through the years, there seems to be a common denominator. No matter if they were staying for a week or a single night, that empty room with a bed and a stove becomes a home.

And just like home, one is sad to go, but many leave behind the promise of return, because they’ve fallen in love with this wild, adventurous place.

A visitor to the Buckshot Cabin in 1977 summed it up nicely:

“I finally feel at ease with the world. Free from tension and anxiety. Free from all worldly pressures I must face in my everyday struggle. Yes, I have found my place; a place where I can belong. But why must I leave and when can I return?”

For more information on Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park, its cabins and yurts, trails and more, visit Michigan.gov/Porkies.

Check out previous Showcasing the DNR stories in our archive at Michigan.gov/DNRStories. To subscribe to upcoming Showcasing articles, sign up for free email delivery at Michigan.gov/DNR.


/Note to editors: Contact: John Pepin, Showcasing the DNR series editor, at 906-250-7260. Accompanying photos and a text-only version of this story are available below for download and media use. Suggested captions follow. Credit: Michigan Department of Natural Resources, unless otherwise noted.

Text-only version of this story.

Artwork: A 1973 landscape drawing contributed to the Mirror Lake Eight-bunk Cabin logbook at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is shown.

Cabin: A wintry scene is shown from the Mirror Lake Cabin at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. (Dave Braithwaite photo)

Drawing: A 1977 drawing from the Section 17 Cabin at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park is shown.

Grizzly: A drawing of the Grizzly Mouse is shown from the Buckshot Cabin logbook, penned by a visitor in 1977.

Logbook 1 and Logbook 2: Logbooks from the 23 cabins and yurts at Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park provide a wealth of interesting comments from the past three-quarters of a century./

DNR COVID-19 RESPONSE: For details on affected DNR facilities and services, visit this webpage. Follow state actions and guidelines at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus.
DNR: fish kills common during spring thaw

DNR: fish kills common during spring thaw

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– DNR News –

Feb. 24, 2021
Contact: Gary Whelan, 517-242-2764 or Sierra Medrano, 517-230-8788

DNR says fish kills may be common during spring thaw

Fish Kill in the water After ice and snow cover melt on Michigan lakes this early spring, it may be more likely for people to discover dead fish or other aquatic animals. While such sights can be startling, the Department of Natural Resources reminds everyone that it is normal, since winter conditions can cause fish and other creatures such as turtles, frogs, toads and crayfish to die.

“Winterkill is the most common type of fish kill,” said Gary Whelan, DNR Fisheries Division research manager. “As the season changes, it can be particularly common in shallow lakes, ponds, streams and canals. These kills are localized and typically do not affect the overall health of the fish populations or fishing quality.”

Shallow lakes with excess aquatic vegetation and soft bottoms are more prone to this problem, particularly when a deep snowpack reduces sunlight for the plants. Canals in urban areas also are susceptible due to the large amounts of nutrient runoff and pollution from roads and lawns and septic systems that flow into these areas, especially from large storm events.

Fish and other aquatic life typically die in late winter but may not be noticed until a month after the ice leaves lakes. That’s because the dead fish and other aquatic life are temporarily preserved by the cold water. Fish also may be affected by rapid changes in water temperature due to unseasonably warm temperatures leading to stress and, sometimes, mortality. That could be the case this year with the record or near-record cold temperatures and large snowfalls Michigan experienced this month and any rapid warming in the coming months.

Fish can become easily stressed in winter due to low energy reserves because feeding is at a minimum in winter. They are then less able to handle low oxygen and temperatures swings.

“Winterkill begins with distressed fish gasping for air at holes in the ice and often ends with large numbers of dead fish that bloat as the water warms,” Whelan said. “Dead fish and other aquatic life may appear fuzzy because of secondary infection by fungus, but the fungus was not the cause of death. The fish actually suffocated from a lack of dissolved oxygen from decaying plants and other dead aquatic animals under the ice.”

Dissolved oxygen is required by fish and all other forms of aquatic life. Once daylight is greatly reduced by ice and snow cover, aquatic plants stop producing oxygen and many die. The bacteria that decompose organic materials on the bottom of the lake use the remaining oxygen in the water. Once the oxygen is reduced and other aquatic animals die and start decomposing, the rate that oxygen is used for decomposition is additionally increased – that means that dissolved oxygen levels in the water decrease even further, leading to increasing winterkill.

For more information on fish kills in Michigan, visit Michigan.gov/Fishing. The public is welcome to report fish kills at Michigan.gov/EyesInTheField; such reports are valuable to the DNR’s ability to manage the state’s aquatic resources. If you suspect a fish kill is due to non-natural causes, call the nearest DNR office or Michigan’s Pollution Emergency Alert System at 800-292-4706.


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